At Night All Blood Is Black Summary and Reviews

At Night All Blood Is Black

by David Diop

At Night All Blood Is Black by David Diop X
At Night All Blood Is Black by David Diop
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Book Summary

Selected by students across France to win the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens, David Diop's English-language, historical fiction debut At Night All Blood is Black is a "powerful, hypnotic, and dark novel" (Livres Hebdo) of terror and transformation in the trenches of the First World War.

Alfa Ndiaye is a Senegalese man who, never before having left his village, finds himself fighting as a so-called "Chocolat" soldier with the French army during World War I. When his friend Mademba Diop, in the same regiment, is seriously injured in battle, Diop begs Alfa to kill him and spare him the pain of a long and agonizing death in No Man's Land.

Unable to commit this mercy killing, madness creeps into Alfa's mind as he comes to see this refusal as a cruel moment of cowardice. Anxious to avenge the death of his friend and find forgiveness for himself, he begins a macabre ritual: every night he sneaks across enemy lines to find and murder a blue-eyed German soldier, and every night he returns to base, unharmed, with the German's severed hand. At first his comrades look at Alfa's deeds with admiration, but soon rumors begin to circulate that this super soldier isn't a hero, but a sorcerer, a soul-eater. Plans are hatched to get Alfa away from the front, and to separate him from his growing collection of hands, but how does one reason with a demon, and how far will Alfa go to make amends to his dead friend?

Peppered with bullets and black magic, this remarkable novel fills in a forgotten chapter in the history of World War I. Blending oral storytelling traditions with the gritty, day-to-day, journalistic horror of life in the trenches, David Diop's At Night All Blood is Black is a dazzling tale of a man's descent into madness.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"French West African writer Diop's short but emotionally packed second novel illuminates an underreported chapter in French and Senegalese history. Part folklore, part existential howl, and part prose poem, it is a heartbreaking account of pointless suffering...A searing, eye-opening tale of innocence destroyed." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Paris-born, Senegalese-raised Diop's second novel is scalding, mesmerizing, and troubling in the best way. Highly recommended." - Library Journal (starred review)

"[I]ntriguing...Diop is sure to earn readers with this feverish exercise in psychological horror." - Publishers Weekly

"David Diop here erects a beautiful monument to the Senegalese riflemen, and seeks to restore their African dimension; to listen to them, to understand them." - Le Monde (France)

"David Diop's At Night All Blood Is Black is an unrelenting take on war, race, masculinity, and colonialism. Most of all, Diop's short, sharp, and serrated novel is a visceral dramatization of how our humanity and inhumanity are forever intertwined." - Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of The Sympathizer

"David Diop's At Night All Blood Is Black is a particularly pertinent reflection on the evils of war, as well as a profound exploration of the human soul." - J.M.G. Le Clézio, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

"An extraordinary novel, full of sadness, rage and beauty." - Sarah Waters, author of The Little Stranger

This information about At Night All Blood Is Black shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

David Diop

David Diop was born in Paris and was raised in Senegal. He is the head of the Arts, Languages, and Literature Department at the University of Pau, where his research includes such topics as eighteenth-century French literature and European representations of Africa in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. At Night All Blood Is Black is his second novel.

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